In the state of Texas, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car. But there are several things to consider to understand whether or not you will get a DWI for an open container of alcohol. It’s important to know about your rights and the potential consequences of open container violations. Recognizing these things will help you avoid citations and know your options if charged. Here’s what can happen if you’re found in possession of an open container.
Texas Open Container Laws
To start, we need to know what determines an open container and how Texas law handles them. Any alcoholic beverage that is unsealed counts as an open container. For instance, alcohol in its original packaging with an open or broken seal, or noticeably missing liquid, is considered open. Additionally, other open containers include water bottles or flasks that contain alcohol.
Simply having an open container in your vehicle is not an offense. In Texas, open containers of alcohol become illegal when they are in the passenger area of the vehicle. The passenger area is identified as the area around the driver and passenger seat. Thus, having an open container in your trunk does not violate Texas law. Similarly, if you’re driving an Uber or Lyft and a passenger in the back seat is in possession of alcohol, you should not be charged with a DWI.
The last thing to know about open containers is that you actually need to be on the road or in a public place to be charged. You cannot get a DWI while sitting in your driveway, as long as you are not operating your vehicle. However, pulling over on the side of the road with a beer in the passenger seat will still incite a DWI.
Open Container Charges
Possessing an alcoholic open container in your car is not an instant DWI. Even when you are found violating Texas open container laws, it is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine. In this case, you will not be arrested but will have to appear in court with a citation. However, the officer is likely to check the driver for intoxication as well. Combining an open container charge with a DWI charge increases the minimum jail time and can be more difficult to fight than a DWI charge on its own.
What to Do After a Citation or Arrest
If you’re facing charges from an open container, a DWI, or both, Stephen T. Bowling can help. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make a big difference, as they may be able to reduce or dismiss the charges. You have the right to seek representation, so make sure you’re represented justly. Call today to see how Stephen T. Bowling can help you, or someone you know, fight a DWI for open container violation.